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Traffic jams back in Manila as restrictions ease

MANILA, PHILIPPINES (AP) – Traffic jams and outdoor crowds are back in the Philippine capital and 38 other cities and provinces yesterday after officials allowed businesses and public transport, including shopping malls, movie houses and restaurants, to operate at full capacity as COVID-19 cases continued to drop with more vaccinations, officials said.

In a bid to further boost the pandemic-battered economy, authorities placed metropolitan Manila and 38 other regions under the lowest rung of a five-step pandemic alert system from yesterday to March 15 and lifted most health restrictions, but still required the full vaccination of residents 18 and older against the coronavirus and the wearing of face masks outdoors and in indoor establishments.

Social distancing is no longer required in Manila and the other specified areas, restaurants can now remove plastic barriers on tables, and public gatherings – such as birthday parties, weddings, sport events and family reunions – can fully resume. Government employees have been ordered to return to office for work.

Daily COVID-19 cases dropped from over 37,000 during the most recent peak in January to below 1,000. The 951 cases reported on Monday bring the total number of confirmed infections to over 3.6 million with 56,451 deaths.

Traffic builds up as the government places the capital on the lowest rung of a five-step pandemic alert system in Quezon city, Philippines. PHOTO: AP

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